MindGeek, parent company of Pornhub, faces proposed class action lawsuit

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MindGeek offices in Montreal on December 9, 2020.

Christinne Muschi / Christinne Muschi / The Globe and

An Ontario woman alleges that adult entertainment conglomerate MindGeek hosted a video describing her sexual abuse at age 12 on Pornhub, its flagship website, according to a proposed class action lawsuit against the company.

The application for authorization of a class action was filed in the Superior Court of Quebec on December 29. She is seeking $ 600 million in damages for those whose images have been posted on MindGeek sites without their consent since 2007. None of the allegations have been proven in court. .

The woman, identified as Jane Doe in court documents, alleges that she was made aware of the existence of the video on Pornhub by an acquaintance via Twitter in the fall of 2019, but only saw the post in January of the last year. The video was behind a paywall, but the woman recognized herself through a still image, she claims.

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She filled out a form on the site requesting the removal of the video. Court documents say she received an automated response a few days later and has heard nothing from the company afterward. She does not know if the video was taken down, according to Louis Sokolov of Sotos LLP in Toronto, co-counsel on the matter.

Lawyers for Siskinds Desmeules in Quebec, which filed the claim, allege in court documents that MindGeek took “no steps” to ensure that only consensual material appeared on its sites and that it did not employ enough properly trained content moderators to review the user. has uploaded videos for all cases of sex trafficking, rape and minors.

Instead, the documents state that MindGeek “has generated significant revenue and profit from non-consensual images and videos,” and should have taken steps years ago to prevent this material from being hosted. .

MindGeek did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

“What we are seeing here is that more and more victims are finding the courage to break the silence,” said Christine St-Pierre, a member of the National Assembly of the Liberal Party of Quebec who spoke out. forcefully against MindGeek. “A trial like this is essential. It will not change the past for these victims. But it could give them some comfort and force the company to be held accountable for its actions.

Ms St-Pierre, a member of the Quebec Legislative Assembly committee on the sexual exploitation of minors, said that although the main plaintiff is from Ontario, there are likely victims in Quebec as well.

MindGeek is registered in Luxembourg, but operates primarily in Montreal, where it employs between 750 and 999 people. Financial records show MindGeek, which controls some of the largest adult sites in the world, had sales of $ 460 million in 2018 and made a profit of $ 22.2 million. (It’s also burdened with some $ 370 million in high interest debt.)

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MindGeek has been in turmoil since a New York Times article in December said the company was profiting from child sexual abuse videos and revenge pornography hosted on Pornhub. The article included accounts from women who said they were in videos posted without their consent. (A 2019 article in the Sunday Times in the UK also stated that Pornhub was inundated with illegal content.)

Shortly after the New York Times article, MasterCard banned the use of its cards on Pornhub when an internal investigation found “violations of our standards banning illegal content,” the company said. Visa suspended the use of its cards at MindGeek properties, but subsequently restored access to sites offering “professionally produced adult studio content.” Visa said at the end of December that its suspension for Pornhub and other MindGeek sites hosting user-generated content remained in place pending an ongoing investigation.

Pornhub initially called the allegations of profiting from illegal material “irresponsible and blatantly false” but has since made numerous changes to its operations. The company has banned downloads from unverified users and has removed millions of videos uploaded by these accounts over the years. The company said it will introduce a new user verification process this year and expand its team of moderators to audit the site. In a blog post, Pornhub called these changes “the most comprehensive guarantees in the history of user-generated platforms.”

Last month, the House of Commons Ethics Committee passed a motion introduced by Liberal MP Nathaniel Erskine-Smith calling on MindGeek executives to appear before the committee earlier this year. Mr Erskine-Smith said at the time that politicians had an obligation to hold companies accountable when they “have so incredibly failed to protect people.”

In December, 40 California women sued MindGeek in US court, alleging that the company knew or should have known that one of its partners, known as GirlsDoPorn, regularly used scams or coerced women into appearing in videos. The lawsuit alleges MindGeek did not end its partnership with the company until its operators were charged in the United States in 2019.

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